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Photo: Courtesy of Cue

San Diego-based Cue Health, which went public in September and is best known for providing COVID-19 tests to Google, the Defense Department and the NBA, is now debuting a consumer version of its product, available for purchase on Nov. 15.

Why it matters: With experts predicting that the virus will be with us for at least a few years in some form, at-home testing is likely to become a growing need for many people.

Details: Cue Health’s system includes individually wrapped cartridge packs that also include a nasal swab, and a small square device that processes the test and connects to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

  • Everything has a white, simple design, reminiscent of Apple products.

Zooming in: Cue's test, authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a type of nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), and the company says that its method has comparable accuracy to polymerase chain reaction tests (commonly called "PCR tests").

  • I took a test on Monday morning, which involved downloading the app, setting up my account, and swabbing my nose (the app has clear step-by-step instructions with helpful videos). I got my result in just under half an hour. The app also makes results easily printable in a format that includes full name, date of birth, and time the test was taken.
  • While customers will be able to purchase the reader and cartridges individually, the company is rolling out two subscription tiers ($49.99 and $89.99 per month) that include annual sets of test cartridges (and discounts on additional ones), free same- or next-day delivery, and a discount on the reader device. The reader will also be compatible with other tests that Cue has in its pipeline, such as the flu and sexually transmitted infections.
  • The pricier tier also includes test-proctoring with a health care provider so that the test can satisfy international travel requirements.

What they’re saying: "Right now in the marketplace there’s this narrative that you can either have accurate testing but it’s slow, or you can have fast tests but it’s less accurate," Cue Health co-founder and CEO Ayub Khattak tells Axios, adding that his company's aim is to provide both accuracy and speed.

Yes, but: Cue can get a bit pricey — the test reader alone is $249, with three-packs of test cartridges at $225.

  • Abbott’s BinaxNow and Quidel's QuickVue at-home antigen tests, for example, cost $23.99 for a two-pack, while the at-home test from LabCorp is $124.99, though the latter takes a day or two for results as it’s shipped to the company for processing. However, antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR-type tests, and at-home versions have been criticized for not being as accurate.

The bottom line: As we returned to a life that resembles “normal,” the demand for at-home tests will grow as people seek more convenient ways to check if a sore throat is a symptom of COVID-19, or just a simple sore throat.

  • While it varies widely across the country, getting a test at a clinic can still be a hassle and take several days.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2021 - Podcasts

How COVID testing should factor into your Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving around the corner, COVID cases in the U.S. are rising in most states and across the country. That has us asking what role testing is going to play in keeping ourselves and our families safe for the holidays.

  • Plus, Jerome Powell is nominated for a second term to lead the Fed.
  • And, why some cities are giving Universal Basic Mobility a try.

Guests: Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician, former Baltimore health commissioner, and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University; and Axios' Courtenay Brown and Bryan Walsh.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, David Toledo and Jayk Cherry. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 16 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.